Trump looms large over cli­mate ac­tion fu­ture

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

From across the At­lantic, Don­ald Trump eclipsed a UN con­fer­ence which fought valiantly in Mar­rakesh to pre­serve mo­men­tum on cur­tail­ing cli­mate change amid fears the mogul will frag­ment the global ef­fort and starve it of cash. World lead­ers, CEOs, ne­go­tia­tors and ac­tivists at the two-week meet­ing, which closed Fri­day, were clearly un­set­tled by the pend­ing White House takeover of Trump, who has vowed to with­draw the US from a hard-won global agree­ment on cli­mate change.

An­a­lysts say a US exit would make it harder to achieve the 196-na­tion pact’s goals to limit planet warm­ing, and likely re­sult in a short­fall of bil­lions of dol­lars promised to help de­vel­op­ing coun­tries fight against cli­mate change and cope with its im­pacts. “The biggest im­pact, I think, is on fi­nanc­ing... the US fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to con­tinue to fi­nance clean en­ergy,” Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Sci­en­tists told AFP. “The thing that peo­ple seem to be most concerned about is: will the US ful­fil the re­main­ing $2.5 bil­lion of the $3 bil­lion pledge Pres­i­dent Obama made to the Green Cli­mate Fund (GCF)?”

The fund sup­ports projects to make the shift away from green­house gas-emit­ting fos­sil fu­els to re­new­able sources. Trump, who has de­scribed cli­mate change as a “hoax”, re­mained mum for the du­ra­tion of the con­fer­ence on whether he will ex­e­cute his pre-elec­tion threats. Amid the un­cer­tainty, del­e­gates to the 22nd UN cli­mate con­fer­ence put on a brave face. Heads of state and cabi­net min­is­ters at­tend­ing a “high-level seg­ment” from Tues­day to Thurs­day this week reaf­firmed their coun­tries’ de­ter­mi­na­tion to push ahead, with or with­out Wash­ing­ton.

But no-one could ig­nore the ele­phant in the room. “The process has taken a huge hit fol­low­ing the US elec­tion re­sults,” said cli­mate ac­tivist Mo­hamed Adow of Chris­tian Aid, which rep­re­sents the in­ter­ests of poor coun­tries at the UN ne­go­ti­a­tions. “There is a lot of un­cer­tainty about what’s go­ing to hap­pen next.” Trump’s elec­tion has re­called the shock of 2001, when Ge­orge W Bush re­fused to rat­ify the Paris Agree­ment’s pre­de­ces­sor, the Ky­oto Pro­to­col. His ac­tion was a ma­jor blow to the global ef­fort to rein in planet warm­ing that sci­en­tists warn threaten the hu­man way of life.

Amer­i­cans the Biggest Losers

Wash­ing­ton was in­stru­men­tal in ne­go­ti­at­ing the struc­ture and con­tents of both agree­ments, strik­ing tough bargains which made for of­ten com­bat­ive ne­go­ti­a­tions. Many fear that af­ter years of trust-build­ing, a US re­treat may re­vive old en­mi­ties be­tween rich and de­vel­op­ing na­tions at the UN process, pos­si­bly un­leash­ing more with­drawals. “Cer­tainly, it could em­bolden some of the least pro­gres­sive ac­tors,” said cli­mate di­plo­macy ex­pert Liz Gal­lagher of the E3G think-tank.

A hand­ful of coun­tries, in­clud­ing ma­jor emit­ters In­dia and Saudi Ara­bia, needed se­ri­ous con­vinc­ing to get on board with the Paris Agree­ment. Fi­nance for cli­mate aid is a par­tic­u­larly hot­but­ton is­sue, with de­vel­op­ing na­tions putting pres­sure on rich coun­tries to ramp up con­tri­bu­tions and de­liver on what they have promised. The US pro­vided $2.7 bil­lion in in­ter­na­tional cli­mate fi­nance in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton-based World Re­sources In­sti­tute.

It pledged last year to dou­ble fi­nance for de­vel­op­ing coun­try adap­ta­tion projects - from $400 mil­lion in 2014 - for shoring up de­fenses against cli­mate change harms. Of the $3 bil­lion pledged for the GCF, $500 mil­lion has been de­liv­ered so far. Wash­ing­ton also pays a big chunk of the op­er­at­ing bud­get of the UN cli­mate body, un­der whose um­brella the Paris Agree­ment was ne­go­ti­ated. An­other con­cern, an­a­lysts say, is the core tar­get en­shrined in the Paris Agree­ment: To halt global warm­ing “well be­low” two de­grees Cel­sius over pre-in­dus­trial era lev­els.

If the US does not achieve its own pledge of cut­ting emis­sions by 26-28 per­cent from 2005 lev­els by 2025, the col­lec­tive goal will move fur­ther out of reach. “We knew be­fore the elec­tion that it was go­ing to take ad­di­tional ac­tions by the next ad­min­is­tra­tion to meet the tar­get,” said Meyer. “It’s not very likely in my mind that Mr Trump would take ad­di­tional ac­tions.” All agree that if Trump acts on his threat, states, cities and busi­nesses in the US and else­where will have to pick up the slack.

On Wed­nes­day, more than 360 ma­jor com­pa­nies called in an open let­ter for a “con­tin­u­a­tion of low-car­bon poli­cies” and in­vest­ment in a re­new­able en­ergy econ­omy. And rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the states of Ver­mont, Wash­ing­ton State and Cal­i­for­nia - the 7th largest econ­omy in the world - stressed they were com­mit­ted to re­new­ables for the long haul. “As states we are do­ing the job,” said Deb­o­rah Markowitz of the Ver­mont Agency of Nat­u­ral Re­sources.

Many in Mar­rakesh stressed that mar­ket forces, not politics, may be what ul­ti­mately guar­an­tees a low-car­bon fu­ture. “If in the worst case the United States were to with­draw its lead­er­ship, the biggest losers will be the peo­ple of the United States,” Erik Sond­heim, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the UN En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme, told AFP. “All those new, re­mark­able fas­ci­nat­ing jobs will go to other places.” —AFP

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